On Friday, Sen. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, introduced a bill to dismantle the adult-use cannabis industry in Montana.
Senate Bill 546 contains several provisions that would drastically alter the state’s marijuana marketplace. Primarily, it focuses on “eliminating adult-use dispensaries.” The bill additionally raises the state tax on medical marijuana from 4% to 20% and puts significant limits on medical marijuana potency and allowable amounts for possession. While the bill prohibits non-medical marijuana sales, it does not re-criminalize marijuana possession for adults. It halves the number of plants an adult can grow at home from two mature plants to one.
According to the bill text, SB 546 intends, in part, to “reduce the demand for marijuana sales” in Montana. The bill currently does not have any co-sponsors.
Sen. Jason Small, R-Busby, chair of the Senate Business, Labor and Economic Affairs Committee, confirmed to Montana Free Press Monday that his committee will hold a hearing on SB 546 on Wednesday, March 29.
As of press time, Regier had not responded to multiple requests for comment.
If passed into law, the bill would drastically reduce the potential consumer base for existing marijuana businesses and eliminate a significant source of revenue for state coffers. Since adult-use sales began in January 2022, Montana has generated $54 million in tax revenue from the industry. Less than one-tenth of that revenue came from medical marijuana taxes. Currently, recreational customers pay a 20% tax to the state; some counties add an additional 3% local tax.
Based on the same sales data, the industry under SB 546 would have generated less than half as much tax revenue in that time period: $20,926,499.
“If SB 546 passes, it would render the entire cannabis program worthless, not only for the operators but also for consumers and patients in the state. You’d be delivering a subpar product to a small group of people and you’re ignoring the majority of the worthy demographic,” Zach Block, the owner of Montana Canna, a dispensary in Kalispell, told MTFP.
As of press time Monday morning, the state Department of Revenue, which administers both the adult-use and medical marijuana programs in Montana, had not responded to a request for comment.
SB 546 also caps potency for marijuana flower sold under the medical program. Current law prohibits the sale of marijuana flower that contains more than 35% THC, the primary active compound in the plant. SB 546 would lower that ceiling to 10%. It also halves the amount of permissible THC in an edible product, from 10 milligrams of THC to 5 milligrams, and dictates that concentrated marijuana extracts contain no more than 10% THC.
The bill also drastically lowers the amount of marijuana that a medical patient can purchase, from five ounces per month (or its equivalent in other forms, such as edibles and tinctures) to a single ounce.
Block, of Montana Canna, says those caps would render medical marijuana less capable of addressing patients’ needs. “A cap on potency would take our collection of effective products and diminish them into something unrecognizable and not necessarily sufficient to consumers and patients,” he told MTFP.
This story originally appeared in the Montana Free Press, which can be found online at montanafreepress.org.
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